It’s anyone’s guess how much of a success or failure the truck will be, though the fact that at time of writing there is, incredibly, still no official information about price or battery capacity doesn’t bode well. But we can conclude that the Cybertruck is just possibly the dumbest vehicle ever produced. Here’s why.Let’s start with the Cybertruck’s body panels, which are made of stainless steel. That is a nightmare for several reasons. First, it is quite a bit harder than ordinary steel, making it difficult to shape and machine. When Ford experimented with stainless steel in the mid-20th century, they discovered that the metal would eventually break the dies they used to press their door panels. Tesla has had to cut the sheets with lasers and bend them into shape, which is undoubtedly more expensive.
The Cybertruck—or CYBPRFRVKK, according to its illegible branding image, which looks like a white suburban teenager’s first hesitant attempt at tagging the local Red Robin—is due to be released today. It’s the first new Tesla design since 2018, and the company has spent over four years and billions retooling its factories to make it.Second, there is cost. The chromium and nickel alloys typically used to make steel stainless—that is, resistant to corrosion—are expensive, at about $11,700 and $18,300 per metric ton, respectively, as compared to about $800 for steel. And while stainless steel is resistant to dents, that also means that if it is dented it is difficult and costly to repair.
Incidentally, automakers have long since developed techniques to combat rust that are roughly equivalent to stainless alloys, like galvanizing the steel (that is, applying a zinc coating) and improved paint. Indeed, stainless steel itself is not entirely rustproof, as anyone with a stainless knife or cutlery has likely discovered. Leave it under a damp surface like a cloth (or leaf, or bird poop) for too long, and it will start to corrode.
Third and perhaps most importantly, stainless steel is much stiffer than the ordinary stuff, which makes it dangerous. Since the 1950s at least, automakers have understood that stiffer cars are more dangerous to people inside and outside the car, because in a crash they deliver energy to other parties rather than absorbing it. In early crash test experiments with more heavily built cars, collisions often did only minor damage to the car but turned the test dummies into paste. Since then, cars have been designed with progressively more sophisticated crumple zones to absorb impact forces. Musk’s boasts of a Cybertruck “exoskeleton,” if true, are a recipe for gruesome carnage.
But hey, at least it also looks like shit.